When we came to this house, our children were toddlers. Now they tell us about their research in abstract mathematics or roll their eyes at their students’ antics. Our son’s room has two framed prints of Winnie the Pooh on the wall; all his trophies from Little League, soccer and karate are clustered on a shelf. Our daughter’s has a collection of beanie babies and a soft cloth block with her birth date, time, and weight embroidered on it. There is an old boom box on a shelf on which she played Kenny G CDs to help her fall asleep.
We will move to an apartment in “independent living.”
I have been going through the things in the dining room. We have a silver serving dish, called an Egg, which was a wedding present to my parents. We have never used it, but my parents did. My mother had never cooked a meal when she married, and each night she served her latest effort to her new husband in this Egg. It wasn’t until she had babies that she realized you could serve food onto plates directly from the pot.
The Egg presided over my parents’ newlywed love, the love that made me. The love that is carried, too, by my children. It shines as if it that love is inside it. It shines as if it knows. Our grandfather clock ticks, giving our house a heartbeat. It was given to my great-grandmother’s sister by their father. The grandfather clock is coming with us. The Egg will go.
How do things hold love? Why did I weep over the knickknacks my parents collected in their travels? Why do I never take off my wedding ring? Will the next person to use the Egg be able to feel the love that enveloped it?
I know that my parents’ love for me, my husband, our children is still with us. It lives in us, as I imagine their love living in the Egg. My love for the babies that our children were still lives in them, even as my love for them as adults, more respectful, more collegial, is different from that earlier, fierce attachment.
I love the Egg, but I do not need it. It may indeed carry my parent’s love in its softly glistening shell, but I carry that love too – in every cell of my body. I love the Egg, but I do not need it. I can let it go.
Dorothy Muller is a Chaplain at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and a Parish Associate at Bedford Presbyterian Church.